Weekend Box Office Report: “Megamind” Drops to Second


In its third weekend, DreamWorks Animation’s Megamind dropped to second place at the North American box office with a final gross of $16 million. Its total gross now stands at $109.3 million after 17 days. The film performed poorly mid-week, and “its 44 percent second-week drop was steeper than that of any other DreamWorks Animation movie besides the Madagascar movies,” according to Box Office Mojo. Comparable grosses for other mid-range CG features at this stage: How To Train Your Dragon had earned $133.4 million after seventeen days, Monsters vs. Aliens ($140.2 million), Despicable Me ($161.3), Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs ($139.7), Happy Feet ($121.5) and Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa ($137.1). The film is currently tracking to be the 10th highest grossing DreamWorks film somewhere between the $160.9M of Shark Tale and the $180M of Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa.

On the independent side, Paul and Sandra Fierlinger’s My Dog Tulip earned $8,622 from four theaters pushing its total to $123,221. This week it will surpass the US releases of Tokyo Godfathers and Appleseed.

Animated Sequence in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

A number of readers have written to ask who animated the shadow puppet-inspired “Tale of the Three Brothers” sequence in the new Harry Potter film Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It was directed and designed by Ben Hibon who produced it in association with Framestore. Hibon recently signed with Nexus Productions for repping.

Here’s an earlier film Hibon made called Codehunters:

UPDATE: FXGuide posted an interview with Dale Newton, the supervisor of the animated sequence at Framestore.

(via Drawn)

Ben Hibon Joins Nexus Productions As His Harry Potter Sequence Premieres

(11/10/2010) Award-winning independent animation production company, Nexus Productions, welcomes Ben Hibon. He joins Nexus just as his 3-minute animation sequence for the latest Harry Potter film “Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows” premieres worldwide. Hibon designed and directed the sequence, and produced in collaboration with Framestore. He has previous experience as a creative director, worked for MTV Europe and Asia, and designed animated in-game sequences for Capcom’s “Killer 7” and elements of Sakichi Sato’s Japanese horror film “Tokyo Zombie.”

Chris O’Reilly, Co-Founder of Nexus, said, “Ben is above all a fantastic storyteller. With his strong sense of design and his experience in character animation, we’re really excited to have him join the studio.”

In 2007, Hibon was commissioned by Sony Playstation to create and direct an animated mini-series based on their flagship PS3 game “Heavenly Sword.” His short film “Codehunters” has been shown at more than 50 festivals around the world and has been nominated for a D&AD for animation and the Golden Nica Award at the Prix Arts Electronica 2007. In 2008, Hibon also directed series of six films in Paris as part of the re-branding of the French bank Credit Agricole that featured Sir Sean Connery. In 2009, he released “A.D.”, the first animated zombie-movie for a mature audience, and its short teaser received more than a million online views. After being picked up by talent agency William Morris Endeavor in Los Angeles, Hibon has been developing numerous animation and live-action feature film projects. He graduated from the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design with a Masters Degree.

“Sym-Bionic Titan” Pushes TV-PG with “Sexy” Scene

Last night’s episode of Sym-Bionic Titan is causing a mini-uproar on the Internet because of this sequence:

Many commenters, including the popular blog Super Punch, are questioning why Cartoon Network showed something so suggestive on a show that is rated TV-PG. Do you think this went too far for a TV-PG show that airs at 8pm? And while we’re at it, here’s another question: does nobody on the Sym-Bionic Titan crew understand how to draw a foreshortened pose? Not that there was much sexiness to begin with in this stiffly posed and animated sequence, but drawing a character so poorly so that she appears to have a leg tumor surely doesn’t help.

Sym-bionic Titan

Pardon me while I revert to old fogey mode, but it’s sad that after decades of progress in this art form, today’s television artists can’t animate anything nearly as appealing or sexy as work created eighty years ago:

Signe Baumane on How To Be A Full-Time Filmmaker

A test frame from Signe Baumane’s feature film in progress

NY filmmaker Signe Baumane (Teat Beat of Sex) is working on her first animated feature Rocks In My Pockets and documenting the progress on her blog. During the past month, she wrote an incredible seven-part series about a topic that nobody ever talks about publicly: fundraising and how an independent animator can afford to make films while living in New York. Bottomline: It’s not easy.

Many filmmakers make films occasionally inbetween commercial film projects, whereas Signe takes a firm and principled stance that puts her independent filmmaking above all other activities. Her free-flowing and often funny articles touch on countless different subjects: applying for grants, why Kickstarter doesn’t work for her, accepting non-film art projects that support her filmmaking habit, and the difficulties of budgeting living expenses when one isn’t earning anything. Unfortunately, the posts aren’t categorized, but start in the October archive with Fundraising Story 1 and work your way up. Her writings provide a sobering and realistic perspective on the life of an independent filmmaker.

(Thanks, Michael Sporn, for the tip)

“The Dukes” on DVD

How’s this for a merchandising ploy? This came in today’s email:

“Warner Archives is offering the first 400 pre-orders for Hanna Barbera’s The Dukes: The Complete Animated Series, autographed by actor James Best (who played Sheriff Coltrane). Limit 1 per customer. The DVD set will be released on December 7th.”

I wonder how many people were on the fence about buying this DVD set, but changed their mind and immediately ordered it once they heard the fifth-billed actor on the series was going to sign the box?

(Thanks, Bob Miller)

EXCLUSIVE: List of 33 Oscar-Qualified Animated Shorts

The following thirty-three films have fulfilled the qualifications necessary to be considered in the category of Best Animated Short for 2010 Academy Awards. Members of the Short Films and Feature Animation Branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will vote on a shortlist of ten films from this list. A second round of voting, also restricted to members of the Short Films and Feature Animation branches, will narrow it down to the five nominees for Best Animated Short Film Oscar. The final vote, which determines the winner, is open to all Academy members provided that they have watched every nominated short. It’s a wide open field this year with plenty of newcomers; only three filmmakers among the thirty-three contenders have ever been nominated for an Oscar (Bill Plympton, Tomasz BagiÅ„ski and Don Hertzfeldt).

A Family Portrait
Director: Joseph Pierce
Great Britain, 2010, 4 min
Link to filmmaker website

Angry Man
Angry Man (Sinna Mann)
Director: Anita Killi
Norway, 2009, 20 min
Link to filmmaker website

Animated History of Poland
Director: Tomasz Bagiński
Poland, 2010, 8 min
Link to filmmaker website

Barking Island
Barking Island (Chienne D’Histoire)
Director: Serge Avédikian
France, 2010, 15 min
Link to filmmaker website

Coyote Falls
Director: Matthew O’Callaghan
United States, 2010, 3 min
Link to filmmaker website

Continue reading

Happy Birthday to Cartoon Music

Today the American Composers Forum is commemorating the birth of a “quintessential American form of 20th century music: cartoons”.

Actually, there is a lot to celebrate today. November 18, 1928 was the day Steamboat Willie, Disney’s first cartoon with a synchronized soundtrack, premiered at the Colony Theater in New York City. This is also the official birthday of its star, Mickey Mouse.

Because of this, Carl Stalling is being featured today with a tribute on Composers Datebook despite the fact that Stalling didn’t create the musical track for Steamboat Willie (Willfred Jackson and Carl Edouarde did that). There’s no doubt, however, that Stalling is a seminal figure in both Disney music and Warner Bros. cartoons and his influence is still being felt today.

So “Happy Birthday” to Mickey, Willie and the soundtrack of all of our lives – Cartoon Music!

(Thanks, Uncle Wayne)

Is “Piercing 1″ the First Indie Animated Feature from China?

Piercing 1

I found out Liu Jian’s Piercing 1 when looking through the list of winning films at the Portuguese animation festival Cinanima which ended a few days ago. After reading up on it, I’m fascinated by everything about the film and can’t wait to see it. I don’t know when that’ll be, but Los Angeles folks are lucky because the film has its US premiere on December 4 at the Silent Movie Theater.

The film tells a contemporary story set during the recent financial crisis. The synopsis:

Zhang Xiaojun came from a poor rural area to the big city. He put himself through university and found a job in a shoe factory. In 2008, the financial crisis forced the closure of many factories. Zhang Xiaojun lost his job. One day, a supermarket guard beats him up, mistaking him for a thief.

In vain, he asks the supermarket manager for financial redress — his dearest wish is to return to his village to resume a simple farming life. Right before his departure, the police arrest him. The supermarket manager also has his problems. On a moonlit night, the storylines converge in a teahouse near the city rampart.

The artwork for Piercing 1 looks beautifully drawn, and in this article about the film, Jian says that he drew the entire film himself on a WACOM tablet over the course of three years. “One day, I talked to my wife about the idea of making an animation film,” he said. “With her permission, we sold our apartment, relied on our savings and we also got help from our relatives. The whole combination of money needed to produce the film was USD $100,000.”

It should be noted that most (if not every) animated feature in China is made with some sort of funding or support from the government. Jian’s film is truly independent; in fact, the lack of the Chinese government’s oversight means that the film is unlikely to ever be released in that country. Hopefully he’ll find a way to distribute it internationally. When asked about the government’s reaction, Jian said:

“I’ve gotten a mixed reaction. The film deals with a lot of negative aspects of life. Even though these aren’t China-specific, government censors are always sensitive. It seems that they’re happy that a Chinese film is gaining international acclaim, but at the same time, with the negative themes in the movie… right now they’re not doing anything to block the film, but they’re not doing anything to promote it, either.”

More information about the film can be found at its official website. If you’ve already seen it on the festival circuit, please share your thoughts in the comments.

UPDATE: This review of the film by Thierry Meranger appeared in Cahiers du Cinéma.

“I’m Going to Disneyland” by Antoine Blandin

Twenty-year-old animation student Antoine Blandin chose an ambitious subject matter for his short I’m Going to Disneyland that pushes beyond typical student film territory. Domestic violence and child abuse are difficult subjects to pull off in animation, and Antoine does a lot with the topic in just over two minutes. I might even argue that it’s more effective than the other domestic violence cartoon making the festival circuits this year, Anita Killi’s Angry Man, simply because Blandin’s grim and austere visuals don’t distract from the story and feel more authentic to the point he’s making. The film was made at the Angoulême, France-based animation school EMCA. There’s a smart write-up about the short at Kuriositas.com.

Silent Animation @ The Silent Movie Theatre!

It’s rare when they are showing cartoons at L.A.’s CineFamily/Silent Movie Theatre without me, but that’s what’s planned on Wednesday December 1st. Animator Tom Sito will host a program of Pioneering Silent Animation at 8pm, featuring rare 35mm prints restored by the George Eastman House. Koko the Clown, Oswald the Rabbit, Mutt and Jeff and Felix The Cat will be represented in films by legendary animation directors Friz Freleng, Dave Fleischer, Paul Terry, Otto Messmer and a certain obscure fellow named Walt Disney. The evening’s program includes:

Domestic Difficulties (1916, Mutt and Jeff)
Trapped (1923, Koko the Clown)
Felix Gets Revenge (1922, Felix The Cat)
Felix Trips Through Toyland (1925, Felix The Cat)
Felix Flirts With Fate (1926, Felix The Cat)
Felix Trifles With Time (1925, Felix The Cat)
Felix Kept On Walking (1926, Felix The Cat)
Scaling The Alps (1928, Aesop’s Film Fables)
Weary Willies (1929, Oswald the Rabbit)
Sky Scrappers (1928, Oswald the Rabbit)

For more information and tickets: click here.

Ask Amid Anything

Amid Amidi

As someone who never chats online, and is frequently inaccessible via e-mail and Facebook, I thought I’d try out this new app called VYou, that allows me to interact publicly with Brew readers via video responses. Basically, you can ask me any question you like, and I’ll choose some of them to answer when I find the time. Feel free to ask me about the industry, animated films, my book projects or personal stuff. We’ll see how it goes. I’ll keep the VYou app accessible on my bio page for now. (IMPORTANT: Do NOT ask questions in the comments below. They will be ignored. Questions have to be submitted through the VYou app HERE.)

UPDATE: I’m overwhelmed by the number of questions you have for me. I’ve started answering some of them and will answer many more in the coming days. Submit questions and view answers on my bio page.

Happy 85th Birthday, Walt Peregoy!

Walt Peregoy

Happy birthday to the great Walt Peregoy who turns 85 today. His color styling on 101 Dalmatians is legendary, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. He’s done tons more great work throughout his career. Peregoy continues to be an accomplished fine artist, and an exhibit of his personal paintings are showing in Burbank for another week or so. I’ll try to make sure he sees this page today so please send your birthday wishes.

Walt painted the backgrounds on the film below, The Shooting of Dan McGrew. The colors are especially majestic if you can see a 35mm print projected:

(Thanks, Joe Horne)

Mike Scully receives WGA Animation Lifetime Achievement Award

Los Angeles — Veteran animation and television writer Mike Scully has been named the recipient of the Writers Guild of America, West Animation Writers Caucus’ 13th annual Animation Writing Award, recognizing his prolific career and outstanding contributions to the craft of film and television animation writing, as well as his efforts to organize animation writers on behalf of the Writers Guild.

The AWC’s lifetime achievement award will be presented to Scully tonight at the AWC’s annual awards ceremony held at WGAW headquarters in Los Angeles.

“Whether penning episodes of The Simpsons, one of the most acclaimed, influential, and long-running series in TV history, or playing a key role in organizing the field of animation writing on behalf of the Guild, Mike’s contributions to both the craft and business of animation writing make him more than deserving of this award,” commented WGAW President John Wells.

“Mike Scully, now in his 17th season on The Simpsons, has amused, entertained, and inspired not only uncounted millions around the world, but uncounted numbers of animation writers. His high quality of writing is something we all aspire to,” said AWC Chair Craig Miller.

Scully’s animation writing credits include The Simpsons and The Simpsons Movie. Scully’s live-action television writing credits include Parks and Recreation, Everybody Loves Raymond, Complete Savages, and The Pitts (the latter two series co-created with his wife, Julie Thacker-Scully).

He is currently consulting on The Simpsons while preparing to executive produce the animated series Napoleon Dynamite for Fox. He has won six Emmy Awards, sharing five for The Simpsons (Outstanding Animated Program) and one for Raymond (Outstanding Comedy Series). Scully also shared a 2009 Writers Guild Award nomination for Comedy Series for his work on The Simpsons.

The WGAW’s AWC Animation Writing Award is given to members of the Animation Writers Caucus or Writers Guild who have advanced the literature of animation in film and/or television through the years and made outstanding contributions to the profession of the animation writer. Founded in 1994, the WGAW’s Animation Writers Caucus represents over 600 animation writers and works to advance economic and creative conditions in the field. Through organizing efforts, educational events, and networking opportunities, the AWC is a leading proponent for animation writers. Recent AWC Writing Award honorees include Al Jean, Brad Bird, Michael Reiss, Linda Woolverton, and the AWC’s 2009 recipient, Stan Berkowitz.

“Angora Napkin” By Troy Little and Nick Cross

Nick Cross and Troy Little directed this funny half hour pilot for Teletoon At Night, based on Little’s graphic novel Angora Napkin. It’s packed with everything I like: Zombies, girls, rock and roll, Sea Monkeys, Lorne Greene jokes and meat. The pilot was finally broadcast on Halloween night in Canada and posted online today. It’s also now available for download on iTunes (for free!).

“Making Mickey Mouse Act For the Talkies”

Calling all animation historians and Disney geeks! Our friends at the Modern Mechanix blog have dug up another animation related article from their stash of long lost popular science/mechanics publications of the 1930s. This time it’s Making Mickey Mouse Act For the Talkies from the March 1931 issue of Modern Mechanix magazine. The article, by Gordon S. Mitchell of Universal’s sound department – who includes ample references to Lantz’s Oswald Rabbit – is a pretty poorly written explanation of how cartoons are produced. However, it does feature several unique behind-the-scenes photos and drawings, and well worth a look for how animation production was explained to the public in those long ago days before DVD bonus features. Check it out here.

(Thanks, C. Peklenk)

Animated Israeli postage stamps

This Sunday, November 21st, the Israel Philatelic Service will issue a set of postage stamps to commemorate ASIFA International’s anniversary and ASIFA Israel’s 25th birthday. The set contains 15 stamps, each slightly different, creating a movement cycle (pictured below, poor image to discourage counterfeiters). They will also release a flip-book of the stamps (above) marking “250 years since the first flip-book”. If you’re interested in ordering/buying these stamps, or the flip-book, you can use the online Israel Post website. Both the flip-book and the stamps page cost approximately $6 (six dollars) US each.

(Thanks, Maureen Furniss)

“Building Toss” by Jared D. Weiss

A bear, a cat and a cyclops are tossing each other around…sounds like the setup to a crummy joke, but it’s actually this soundless animation loop created for a class assignment by School of Visual Arts student Jared D. Weiss. The only reason I’m posting it is because the animation made me laugh…five times in a row. It’s difficult to do goofy animation that is both awkward and well animated. Sesame Street director and Pixar veteran Bud Luckey calls it “dumb-ass animation,” and frankly, I can’t think of a better term. Whatever you want to call it, Jared does it quite well.

PS: If you want to make it even funnier, try watching with the Benny Hillifier.

“Summer Wars” by Mamoru Hosoda

Above is the trailer for Summer Wars, one of the fifteen films that qualified yesterday for the 2010 Animated Feature category of the Academy Awards. Unlike most of the other films on the list, we’ve never written about it on the Brew so I thought it would be worthwhile to share some information about it. The film was directed by Mamoru Hosoda (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time) and animated at Madhouse.

It was the 38th highest grossing feature during 2009 in Japan where it grossed $17.4 million. It’s been well reviewed (see Todd Brown’s review at TwitchFilm and Patrick Galbraith’s review at Otaku2). The film has screened at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival and the Berlin International Film Festival, was nominated for Best Animated Feature Film at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards, and has won the Japan Academy Prize for Animation of the Year and the Sitges Film Festival’s Gertie Award for Best Animated Feature Film.

FUNimation, in association with GKids, is releasing the film theatrically in the US beginning next month. Here are the current theatrical dates:

Dec 3-8 Chicago,IL- Siskel Film Center
Dec 10-16 Los Angeles, CA — AMC Covina 30
Dec 24-30 San Francisco, CA- Landmark Bridge Theater
Dec 29-Jan 4 New York, NY- IFC Center
Jan 5-12 Boston, MA- Museum of Fine Arts
Jan 7-13 Denver, CO- Starz Film Center
Jan 7-13 Santa Fe, NM- CCA Cinematheque
Jan 14-20 Los Angeles, CA- Laemmle Sunset
Jan 21-27 Philadelphia, PA- Landmark Ritz at the Bourse
Jan 23-Feb 3 Honolulu, HI- Academy of Arts,
Jan 28-Feb 3 Seattle, WA- Landmark Varsity

(Thanks, Samuel Einhorn)

Hasbro Studios and Corus Entertainment’s Kids Networks Reach Broad Animation and Live-Action Programming Agreement

First of Many Global Output Deals for Year-Old Television

Production and Distribution Division of Hasbro

LOS ANGELES–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Nov. 9, 2010– Hasbro Studios, the Los Angeles-based production and distribution division of Hasbro, Inc. (NYSE:HAS), has reached a comprehensive programming and marketing agreement with Canada’s leading kids and family TV broadcaster, Corus Entertainment.

The agreement covers a broad range of Hasbro Studios-produced series on Corus Entertainment’s kids services: YTV, Treehouse, Nickelodeon (Canada), TELETOON* and TELETOON Retro*. It includes the anticipated series Transformers Prime, My Little Pony Friendship is Magic, G.I. Joe Renegades, The Adventures of Chuck and Friends and Pound Puppies.

“Our partnership with Corus’ kids networks marks the first of many distribution agreements that are designed to expand the Hasbro television programming brands around the world,” Stephen Davis, President of Hasbro Studios, said. “We are delighted to be in business with Corus, renowned for its highly targeted television brands, strong partnerships and compelling content.”

“We’re very excited to be able to offer our viewers the terrific line-up of Hasbro programs across our many Corus’ kids platforms. Hasbro has always been a great partner and we look forward to growing that relationship,” said Ted Ellis, Vice President, Kids/Family Programming, Corus Television.

About Corus Entertainment Inc.
Corus Entertainment Inc. is a Canadian-based media and entertainment company. Corus is a market leader in specialty television and radio with additional assets in pay television, television broadcasting, children’s book publishing and children’s animation. The company’s multimedia entertainment brands include YTV, Treehouse, Nickelodeon (Canada), W Network, CosmoTV, VIVA, Sundance Channel (Canada), Movie Central, HBO Canada, Nelvana, Kids Can Press and radio stations including CKNW, CFOX, CKOI, 98,5 FM, Q107 and 102.1 the Edge. Corus creates engaging branded entertainment experiences for its audiences across multiple platforms. A publicly traded company, Corus is listed on the Toronto (CJR.B) exchange. Experience Corus on the web at www.corusent.com.

* TELETOON Canada inc. is owned by Corus Entertainment (50%) and Astral (50%).

About Hasbro Studios:
Hasbro Studios is the Los Angeles-based production division of Hasbro, Inc. (NYSE: HAS). The “virtual” studio develops and produces shows based on Hasbro’s world class brands, including TRANSFORMERS, MY LITTLE PONY and GI JOE; delivers new branded content; and produces programs from top third-party content creators. Many of these shows will run on The HUB, the new television network starting 10.10.10 that was created by the joint venture between Hasbro and Discovery Communications (NASDAQ: DISCA, DISCB, DISCK), as well as on multiple channels in international markets.

New Books

The Vault of Walt by my old friend Jim Korkis is a great read and must have for anyone interested in the history of Walt Disney. Korkis has collected over 35 untold tales about Disney and his company – “Unofficial, Unauthorized, Uncensored Disney Stories Never Told” is the sub-title. I love the little details, the nooks and crannies of both Disney films and Disney the man – and that is what Korkis supplies, the fascinating stories behind the little things left out of all the big biographies of Disney’s life and legacy. And true to its source, it’s as much fun to read as any vintage Disney movie – you really sense Jim’s enthusiasm on every page. You’ll read about Chuck Jones four months at Disney Animation (in 1953), the short-lived radio series Mickey Mouse Theatre of the Air, Disney involvement with his last film, Blackbeard’s Ghost (1967), and what happened when he returned to his home town, Marceline, in 1956 — and much much more. This is stuff I always wanted to know about and I’m delighted its all been committed to print. An absolute joy and highly recommended!

Animation – Art and Industry edited by Maureen Furniss is a book I picked up at the Ottawa International Animation festival last month. It was published in 2009 by John Libbey out of the United Kingdom and distributed in the US by Indiana University Press. Somehow it escaped my sight until now but I’m glad I caught up to it. It’s a compilation of academic papers – but unlike some of those other tomes, this has some very readable and important pieces by some of my favorite writers: Karl Cohen on blacklisted animators, Charles Solomon on Disney’s wartime cartoons, J.B. Kaufman on pioneering animation distributor Margaret Winkler, John Canemaker on - what else? – Winsor McCay, Linda Simensky on Bugs Bunny Merchandising, Michael Frierson on Gumby, Helen McCarthy on Miyazaki’s Totoro and on and on… absolutely great stuff. Authoritative and a very enjoyable read. It’s a good one. Get it.

The Great Treasury of Christmas Comic Book Stories continues Craig Yoe’s string of beautifully designed hardcover comics compilations. This time he’s rounded up the rarely seen holiday-themed comic book stories by Walt Kelly, John Stanley, Richard Scarry, Al Fago, Jack Bradbury, Melvin “Tubby” Millar, and many others, from 1940s and 50s vintage comics, lovingly restored in a bright Christmas package. Buy two – one for you and one to give as a gift. It’s perfect for anyone – comic book fans, animation buffs, and/or everyone who enjoys the fantasies of the holiday season. Fun!

Long before there was a Google, there was Barney Google. This is all explained in Craig Yoe’s new hardcover Barney Google book. Creator Billy DeBeck was one of the great cartoony “big foot” cartoonists of the 1920s, and his star character became a national sensation during that decade. This book mainly reprints original strips from 1922 that led to his first story with Spark Plug, Barney’s race horse. As usual, Yoe devotes the first 45 pages of the book to a survey of DeBeck’s career with rare photos, drawings, publcity art and memoribilia. Great stuff and a perfect introduction to Barney’s “Goo-Goo-Googly” world.